Westconnex – a reconceptualisation
What are they thinking?
Westconnex – it’s happening, it’s huge, and it’s being done seemingly without rhyme or reason beyond ‘let’s build a ruddy great motorway underground, and airport and city’. The details of this project are (where available) nonsensical and without apparent understanding of context. It seems many decisions are made to please politicians who have zero knowledge of road design, function, purpose, and integration – ‘yeah mate, that looks awesome’. Decisions are made seemingly at random, without justification and explanation, without publicly available detail, behind closed doors. Have they even visited the areas to understand how people move around?
So, with all that said, opposing this project is fruitless – it’s being built right now, as you read this. The government of the day is popular (well, it doesn’t have much opposition), is likely to win at least one more election, and hell-bent on this project. I don’t know why, but that’s part of the charm with this thing – guessing why things are being done since very little info is available. We have to put aside the incompetence and mismanagement and secrecy at every turn. Let’s ignore the current and future tax resources that are being sucked up at an alarming rate. Because this monster cannot be stopped.
It’s time to change tack; from ‘stop the project’ to ‘make this project better’ – imbue it with a purpose and function in the short window of time we have left before construction realities cannot be undone. I believe this is the most positive and constructive thing left to do.
Westconnex – it’s time to think up a strategy and purpose for it, while we still can.
We have an odd opportunity to put in place a permanent road-based infrastructure to support our city. A combined distributor and inner city bypass of quite grand proportions. I have to try and not be on the back foot here – I know this will be unpopular, but it’s the most realistic and positive message out there – fix Westconnex, give it a positive and city-enabling function. Run with this for now, please.
Roads are the best way to distribute dispersed travel needs. They fall over when they have to funnel a big stream into a small point. They are for distributed travel needs. There’s a reason why there are bountiful ring motorways all over Europe – while their city centres are free from motorways, unlike in the USA, where most city centres have suffered and been transformed to serve the needs of the motorcar.
Sydney is a big city – geographically and demographically. It’s an agglomeration of merged towns almost. It’s very complex, fractured, tribal even.
Roads are the lifeblood of logistics and freight in Sydney. You don’t pack a van-load of goods onto a cart and walk to a train station.
Roads are the lifeblood of dispersed trips throughout the multi-pole. Sydney has a concentrated city centre, and quite a few other areas of the city are becoming more and more concentrated.
The point I am building to here is that *roads serve as circumferential connectors*. They fall over when asked to deliver big numbers of people at the same time into the same spot. So, Westconnex should harness this fact to make itself into a connector of our dispersed and fractured metropolitan spread, and a bypass-distributor for our shared city centre and surrounds. Yes, it’s a complex reality, but this should be the focus – a bypass-distributor network.
Freight is moved largely by road.
Most journeys in Sydney are made by car.
Sydney is a fractured broken place.
The future of the motor car holds a paradigm shift in their usefulness.
First of all, the electrification of their drive train (or alternative fuels like hydrogen) promises fume-free propulsion. Gone will be the scourge of local vehicle emissions polluting the air – especially from diesel buses and trucks. Future vehicles will have far less impact on local pollution, to the point one day of none whatsoever!
Automation will also offer a paradigm shift beyond popular understanding today – the usability, versatility, and flexibility of the motor vehicle will be vastly superior to today.
Vehicle ownership will decline. Shared use of vehicles will increase. Cars will be summoned, even if privately owned. Cars can be despatched, and then return autonomously to their base, or pick up another passenger for their needs. This will be a reality within twenty-thirty years, you can be fairly sure of that. Motor vehicle and tech companies (more and more becoming one and the same) are already vying and experimenting with this.
Some people are busy decrying the end of the vehicle. But, they are wrong. It is the most useful invention for moving people and goods beyond their local environment to dispersed points. Westconnex can serve an important function into the future – enabling these dispersed trips throughout Sydney, with the advent of automated vehicles and their versatile uses. Especially in a very busy part of the metropolitan area.
So, here’s an imagining of this roadway.. Done very quickly, in a café..
From the M5 eastbound: Start tunnel before the King Georges Road, with an onramp east from King Georges Rd into the tunnel. First stop: an extended Railway St to distribute traffic onto the airport ring road and to its international and domestic terminals. Have a long distributor ramp – queues will be inevitable. Railway St incidentally is the fork that spears local traffic into local inner western suburbs here. Not Campbell Rd, what are they thinking dumping a motorway of traffic there. They are crazy. And clearly don’t understand the local area. I work in Mascot as a van driver, I know how traffic moves about down here. Princes Highway is the main south route into St George, towards the M5, and to the Shire. Princes Highway also goes round Sydney Park and provides an important east cross route along Euston Rd and McEvoy St. The other most important east cross route is Canal Rd and Gardeners Rd. The current plans to increase the width and dump traffic in Campbell Road is illogical beyond my understanding. I can’t understand why that decision has been made, and there are no explanations and justifications available. This junction would also tie into an upgraded Airport ring rd to facilitate better movement of freight around its choke points to Port Botany.
Next stop – the junction with Princes Highway and Canal Rd, mainly for eastbound trips and distribution of some local traffic. An interchange at Canal Rd for east-bound trips, and there are ramps on to Princes Highway to facilitate inner-south and eastern trips.
Here too, northbound traffic from Princes Highway diverts onto the motorway rather than funnelling into various cramped inner city roads. Meanwhile, all through traffic is off local roads. Princes Highway can be widened on its eastern edge and a centre bus right of way inserted, and new street trees – a transformation of this very ugly through way.
Continue into tunnel under Sydney Park, and under Newtown. Next stop a smaller junction with Parramatta Rd at Camperdown (this has been cut from Westconnex plans is my understanding).
Congestion charge in the CBD to really discourage private vehicle trips into the CBD. This infrastructure is not for transporting people into the CBD, well, it’s a by function, not its primary function.
Tunnel continues to the Rozelle Railyards for access to the Anzac Bridge, and perhaps a future connection north around the Harbour Bridge and western distributor. Access to Victoria Rd.
Space is left for a future four-track rail alignment and rail tunnel access for various western rail concepts. This is known as the Sydney Gateway. There is an amazing view of the city from the western tunnel exit.
This is a very tight space so its important to factor in future rail use as well.
Tunnel towards the existing M4, surfacing around Olympic Park. Access to the motorway westbound around the end of the Western Distributor in Haberfield/Croydon.
Westbound on the M4:
Enter tunnel at Olympic Park.
Exit if you want onto Parra Rd at Haberfield junction.
Tunnel continues to Rozelle interchange where a northern route around the busy Harbour Bridge and Western Distributor can be found.
Distance based tolling, but at a fair and reasonable price.
A congestion charge is present in the city to really reinforce not accessing the CBD by private vehicle. This charge goes into an integrated transport fund.
Divert south toward South Sydney/Airport. Emerge south of Sydney Park, access to Gardeners Rd and Princes Highway southbound.
Shortly thereafter possible to exit to extended Railway St to queue into domestic and international terminals. Future re-location of the whole airport to Badgerys Creek with a smaller airport at Kurnell. This whole area becomes the other pole of the Grand Centre of Sydney.
Dive into tunnel, emerge with a King Georges Rd Exit, and then the main tunnel rejoins the M5 just past King Georges Rd.
Freight to Port Botany – always a problem – there is serious road congestion around Sydney Airport. Removing the airport stations’ tarifs will encourage people to use the train to airport – a far more efficient method – but I don’t think that will allay entirely congestion on the road circling the airport. Perhaps upgrade some intersections so traffic-light congestion is avoided. I dunno.
Ultimately, I would move the entire Port Botany to Port Kembla and Newcastle – to move jobs to those regional centres, and to acknowledge the fact that Sydney’s shore is more useful as living, working, and recreational quarters these days, especially with the difficulties of moving freight between east and western Sydney. Freight would move in and out of Sydney’s west (and some other areas) to the north and south, with a larger share on the railway. Grand plan in development and available in bits and pieces.
Everyone will hate me for this grand proposal.
But yeah.. I dunno.. There is no sense left in plain opposing this project. It is happening, there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it. And the biggest thing to avoid is the disaster that will take place at St Peters. That is the most illogical, incomprehensible layout and decision I have ever seen.
The rest of the project follows its own logic really – traffic simulations and detail are needed, but the grand scope is pretty easy to figure out.
This vast motorway project is intended to free up local roads for local trips. Parramatta Rd should be changed into a two lane local through road with a central bus right of way. And trees hehe.
I think it’s time to push for a better more useful project because there’s no stopping it now.
Road vehicles will continue into the future, their usefulness will increase.
Let’s do this with forethought, contextual understanding, and intelligence.
Have a blast blasting me 😉
PS – illustrations to come tonight Jan 10 2017 – I’m ubering this arvo, then taking my mother to the dr, and hopefully after that I’ll be home on the big computer to do the illustrations.